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Archive for April, 2010

I watched this sweet video yesterday and thought it was worth sharing. I think I have run across Chris Lehmann’s name a few times, but I didn’t know much about him. I guess I still don’t. What I do know after watching this video is that he has some good ideas on how education needs to change and he has a sharp vision of how technology needs to be  a part of this.

Probably one of the most memorable points is where he talks about how taking the computer lab should not be a big deal. Students should be using computers daily, even hourly. He also asked peole to stand outside a school and watch kids at 3:00 as they leave the building. He describes kids as reaching in every pocket and pulling out all sorts of electronic devices. He explains that this is the “oxygen that students breath, and they have been deprived of it for the last 7 hours.” He makea a good point here.

Click here to watch the video. It’s a ten minute pump-up video worth watching.

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The Pew Internet group has done a study: Teens and Mobile Phones. It goes into great detail as to where and how students are using their phones. If anything, it is worth the read just to see some of the numbers. One big number: over half of the teens surveyed are sending over 15oo texts a month.

It is definitely time that we put some of these numbers to good use. The fact is that students are using their phones all the time. I have asked my own students, and the majority say that they text during almost all of their classes. This is done with the knowledge that if they get caught, the phone will get taken away. I don’t know if their is an easy solution to all of this, but I do know that if they are already using them, we need to take advantage of the students having them. Otherwise, we may be missing out on a great opportunity for learning.

Check out the Pew Internet Report. It’s worth a read.

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I am attending my first online conference (of sorts) this week. It is all about cell phones in the classroom, and so far, it has been well worth the time. One interesting conversation today was if cell phones should still be called cell phones. There seems to be a camp that wants to call them mobile devices (or mobiles for short). I asked my students what they thought, and they informed me that they should be called “‘cells.” Anyway, it still got me thinking.

There is a rockin’ research paper that I want to share, but I am writing this on my computer that has no links saved, so I am going to have to share that in the future. For now, I will just share this cool video. It came from the conference. It is pretty well done and has some good info on using phones as instructional tools in the classroom.

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I guess it’s official and it’s spreading across the web like wildfire today; Ning is going to be changing the way they do business. The company is going to start charging those that have Nings. From the looks of it, the news was first released by TechCrunch earlier today. You can go there to read the full story.

What does this mean? Well, if you have a Ning get out the checkbook. They’re going to start charging. There have been several comments in different forums suggesting that they at least “grandfather” in existing accounts, but the word right now is that if a  person want to keep their Ning, they are going to have to pay.

I wonder if they will hold to it. I believe that they currently have over 1 million accounts running, and I imagine that they know several of these are going to flee to avoid charges. However, surely they aren’t going into this blind. The costs must have been weighed.

I dont’ know what to think of the situation. On the one hand, the company has to look out for themselves. On the other hand, the company is going to leave lots of people high and dry. I guess we can always hope for a change of heart, but in the meantime, we are probably going to have to look for something new.

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Last week I wrote about how Etherpad was going shut down pads starting on the 14th. Since then I have learned of another new alternative. Actually, this one is Etherpad in a resurrected form. Apparently, in December of 2009, Google bought Etherpad with hopes of integrating it with Wave. However, according to Lifehacker.com, they quickly shut it down. This didn’t make Etherpad users happy, so Google put the collaboration platform back online as an open source app. To make a long story short, Etherpad is now know as Typewith.me.

So, in the past week I have looked at a bunch of different collaborative tools to use in the classroom. Here’s a list of those that I looked at.

  1. Collabedit:  Don’t even bother clicking. This one didn’t work well at all. For some reason, the work just kept dissapearing.
  2. Primarypad: Looks good on the surface, but when we used it in the classroom, we had major issues. We could not keep it connected. After a few minutes of use, a disconnect warning would come up. When the students would finally reconnect, their prior work would be gone.
  3. Piratepad: This app worked great. We used it for several days and never had a problem. It worked just like the old Etherpad.
  4. Typewith.me: I haven’t tried it with students yet, but I am guessing that it will work well.
  5. Twiddla: Ok, I just found this one a few minutes ago when I was looking for info on Typewith.me. It looks awesome. Not only can students write, but they can also draw and upload media. I really want to try this one with students. If you have used it, please let me know how it went.

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Yesterday, I listened to the interview of Tony Wagner by Steve Hargedon, the creator of Classroom 2.0. For those that have already read Wagner’s books, the inteview didn’t have much in the way of earth shattering information. However, hearing an authors viewpoint in person always makes the words ring a little more true.

Interestingly, Hargedon spent more time talking with Wagner about his first book on education, Making the Grade than he did discussing The Global Achievement Gap. Not that it really mattered. It sounds like both of them follow similare patterns.

I haven’t read Making the Grade yet, but The Global Achievement Gap was awesome. It really made me rethink what I was doing in the classroom and how I felt about education as a whole. In the book, Wagner made sense of many of the thoughts that I was already thinking about education, those ideas that were floating around but not connected to anything. Probably the biggest impact on me was in the area of what is taught in the classroom. Wagner makes it clear in his book, and reitterated in the interview tonight, that content is not as important as skills, especially 21st Century skills. Not that content is not important, but it might ride the backburner when it comes down to learning actual skills that students are going to use in the future.

That’s enough of my babbling about it. All I will do is confuse you. Click here to go and listen to the interview. Look under interiew recordings on the right hand side of the site. It’s definitely worth a bit of time.

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I spent some time yesterday setting up Etherpads for a class activity later in the week. I created the pads and set the links on my blog for the students, and then I saw the yellow sentence at the top of the Etherpad page: On April 14, new pad creation will be disabled. Not what I wanted to see after just setting up my classes. The whole point was to publish a collaborative document that would be around for awhile.

It took a few minutes, but with some looking, I found a few other options out there to take the place of Etherpad. One of these is Primarypad. Honestly, after opening it up, I had a hard time distinguishing any difference from Etherpad. The only difference was the name at the top. Granted, I haven’t used it yet, but it looks the same, and it should work fine.

Another platform is Collabedit. This is the one I am going to try and use with students on Thursday. It has the same general feel as Etherpad, but again, I am not sure how well it works. I will find out in a few days.

If you have never used anything like Etherpad before, they are pretty cool. Basically, it is a simple place to work collaboratively with others on a project. Every participant shows up in a different color where documents are put together. There is also a chat bar on the side to discuss what is happening. Basically, it is a Wiki that works in real time. Anyone can type at any time and the words show up simultaneously. This is a pretty slick tool for group work because teachers can track, to some extent, who is contributing on a project. Plus there is always the perk that the students like it.

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